Patient IDs stolen in computer thefts

April 8, 2005

By Robert Mullins

San Jose Medical Group has changed computer security procedures in the wake of a burglary in which computers storing personal data about patients were stolen.

The medical group, an organization of more than 200 doctors who practice at Silicon Valley hospitals and clinics, was deluged with telephone calls Friday from patients who received a letter from the group the day before that the computer theft could make them a victim of identity theft.

It mailed notices to 185,000 patients informing them of the theft and encouraging them to contact any one of three credit bureaus in the U.S. in case someone tries to obtain a credit card in their name. The notice is required under California law.

Burglars broke into the medical group's offices at 400 Race St., San Jose, March 28 and stole two computers that were in a room whose locked doors were forced open. The computers stored names, addresses, Social Security numbers and confidential medical information about patients.

They were the only computers in the organization that contained this personal data, which was being stored on them as part of an audit, said Dr. Dean Didech, chief medical officer.

"We have changed security issues with regard to what we do with computers that handle such information," Mr. Didech said.

The medical group has received hundreds of calls from patients with questions about the notice.

Patients have been advised to contact one of the credit bureaus to have a "fraud alert" placed on their credit file, which would warn creditors that the named person may be a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert filed with one bureau is shared with the other two. Patients also can receive a copy of their credit report at no charge.

"When you receive your credit reports, look the papers over carefully," wrote Ernie Wallerstein, chief executive officer of San Jose Medical group, in the letter mailed to patients and also handed out to people visiting clinic sites Friday. "Look for accounts that you did not open. Look for inquiries from creditors that you did not initiate. Look for personal information such as a home address or Social Security number that is not accurate."

Patients can contact the credit bureaus by phone or online:

Experian: 888-397-3742

Equifax: 888-766-0008

TransUnion Corp.: 800-680-7289

main page ATTRITION feedback